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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Is there a real reprieve in prices?

NOW that we are in the middle of 2012, it is probably a known and accepted fact that the property market is taking a long-awaited breather, after a steep and breathless uphill climb in 2010 and last year.

Prices and rental in a most parts of the Klang Valley have come down. In some hotspots that have seen the steepest price increase the last couple of years, rental and prices have come down marginally since the last quarter of 2011 and this trend has continued until today. It is likely this trend will continue well into the second half of this year.

It is not that there is no longer demand for these properties. There is demand, but the prices have been bidded up to such a degree that potential buyers are beginning to ask themselves if they are over-paying. Some may even ask if there are fundamentals to support such high prices. In short, they have decided to walk away.

Whether they are prepared to over-pay or whether there are fundamentals to support these high prices are two different things. This is because buying a house is – or can be – an emotional affair.

Some are willing to over-pay because they really like the property, or its location and the amenities that come with it. Or they may be concerned that if they do not buy now, prices may go up further.

So, despite the suspicion that they may be over-paying, they decide to go ahead with the purchase. This is particularly so if they are renting.

As for whether there are fundamentals to support prices that go up, up and up, well often, there isn’t. The same infrastructure is there, and the environment has remained status quo. But prices have moved up and buyers wonder – what’s the rationale? Buyers are beginning to question and that is good.

The secondary market – where buyers buy directly from property owners – may be a more realistic gauge of the sentiment prevailing in the property market.

There is less speculation in the secondary market. Those who shop for a house in the classifieds would already know the purpose of his purchase. He would more or less know how he is going to finance it because he has to pay for the property in full, upon signing the sales and purchase agreement. He would also have to go about seeking the services of a lawyer, if he does not have one already, and the mortgage loan would also have to be sorted out.

In other words, the outlay would be greater – emotionally, financially and physically – as there is much running around after a decision is made for a particular property.

It is only in the primary market, where buyers buy directly from the developers, that the speculative element is more evident. Amid the razzmatazz and the party spirit of the moment, a buyer just pays the 10% he is required to and sits back with the availability of today’s interest bearing schemes. He need not think too much about what he is going to do with it, or how he is going to finance the purchase until two to three years later. If he does not want to begin his loan repayment, he can sell it.

It is here, therefore, in the primary market, that the speculative element is more evident. Last year, developers had multiple launches. Their intention was to lock in sales while the going was good.

This year, the situation has changed somewhat. There is a lot more caution, both in the secondary and the primary market, as evidenced by less launches by developers, and slower sales in the secondary market. Unlike last year, a developer has to do a lot more marketing and promotion in order to lock in sales now.

Nevertheless, despite the slower sales, there seems to be no let up in the prices as they remain high, with developers justifying their prices with increasing cost of construction.

As we enter the second half of 2012, the worsening crisis in the eurozone will cast some uncertainty over the market, although indirectly. Already, exports for April have contracted, although marginally. This may filter down to the property market.

Those who buy with a clear focus and objective will continue to execute their decision. Those who are more uncertain why they are buying may take a wait-and-see approach, or if they really like a property and are certain of its potential, may just take out the cheque book.

Deputy news editor Thean Lee Cheng wonders how the Greek election tomorrow will turn out as it may open up a new chapter for the eurozone. We in Malaysia will not be immune to what’s happening in Europe.

By The Star

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